The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, Feb. 4, 2019

Noisy Monday in women's soccer, a bunch of must-read links and a conversation with Caitlin Murray about her book!

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Apologies for the late Soccer Monday. It seems like there’s a lot going on today and I wanted to get it in.

My Associated Press colleague, international soccer writer Rob Harris, broke the news this morning that referees for the Women’s World Cup this summer are getting VAR training over the next two weeks.

The training has been going on at “seminars and matches in Qatar ensures the 27 referees and 47 assistant referees will gain the necessary experience that allows FIFA executives at a meeting in Miami in March to approve the use of the technology for the World Cup.”

So that’s the rub: FIFA officials still have to approve it.

One other side note: The VAR training involved male referees who have experience from the men’s World Cup. Traditionally Women’s World Cup officiating crews have been female. But even U.S. coach Jill Ellis has suggested that male refs would be fine if it means VAR for this summer’s event.

I’m, as they say, cautiously optimistic. Now that the VAR training sessions are out there, how can they NOT have it? I mean, they’ve already got experience implementing it on a big stage for the men’s World Cup. From a purely PR aspect, it would look bad for FIFA officials to vote against VAR less than a year after the organization released its global strategy for women’s soccer with the intention of growing the game.

Let’s face it, a Women’s World Cup without VAR at this point would be silly. Kind of like holding the Women’s World Cup on artificial turf.

Oh, wait.

I guess we’ll see.

OK, one other item from late last week that I want to touch on: The Reign are moving to Tacoma. While I hate to see them out of Seattle I like the fact that now I’m 30 miles (and a lot less traffic) closer.

The benefits are clear: Real grass! There’s also investment of Mikal Thomsen, owner of the Triple-A baseball Rainiers, and the family of Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer. Check out the links for some great contributions on the topic. I’m hoping a stadium comes sooner rather than later.

One last note, but it’s an important one. Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) has a petition in support of the Afghanistan women’s team, urging that FIFA and the AFC hold the Afghanistan federation accountable for its actions. It’s here!

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Remember: first, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks=Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Oh and if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

First off, AP’s breaking story from Rob Harris on VAR for the Women’s World Cup from this morning is here.

If there’s only one thing you read this week (except for the AP stuff of course), read this from The Guardian’s Donald McRae on Lisa Fallon.

More evidence women’s soccer has grown: A match in Spain attracts more than 48K.

Lewes FC is calling on the FA to close the pay gap between the men’s FA Cup and the women’s. Katie Whyatt writes about it here for the The Telegraph

AP’s Tim Booth wrote about the Reign’s move to Tacoma.

The Equalizer looks at what the move means for the NWSL’s independent teams.

Chelsey Bush from The Equalizer looks at why there aren’t more women coaching in the NWSL.

This should be getting more attention and it’s very serious: some soccer players for the University of Houston have rhabdo. The Today Show took a closer look.

The following is some great content on the move courtesy of the Royal Guard’s Jocelyne Houghton! Thank you so much for contributing!

Reign FC move to Tacoma for 2019 season, and beyond:

Open Letter to Fans and Supporters of the Seattle Reign FC from the owners:

Coming to a better understanding of why the Reign left Seattle for Tacoma:

New ownership partners:

Coffee & Valkyries podcast chats with RFC owners Bill & Teresa Predmore:

Seattle Times editorial:

Tweet of the Week!

PS: We’re still waiting to see what this is all about.

The Five at the IX

This is a personal one. My friend Caitlin Murray has a book on the USWNT coming out. She’s been super secretive about the book, so it was great of her to answer a handful of questions for the IX.

Oh, and you can pre-order the book here on Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble. It comes out on April 2!

ANNIE: How did the book originate? Was there a certain story you wanted to tell?

CAITLIN: I had always wanted to tell the story of the U.S. women’s national team. I knew it was a story of women proving naysayers wrong and defying the odds, both on and off the field. That was the story I wanted to tell – I knew it would be a really empowering message in a time where these kinds of stories need to be told. The more I worked on the book and the deeper I dug, the more I realized that the USWNT’s story is impressive and inspiring in ways that people might not know. My editor at Abrams Books wanted a book that could be timed to come out before the 2019 Women’s World Cup and gave me free rein to take on this project, so it worked out.

ANNIE: Is this your first book? How is the writing process different from your work for The Athletic, The Guardian or previous media companies?

CAITLIN: This is my first book and the final manuscript I turned in was around 125,000 words, which is equivalent in length to about 100 or so articles. But it’s not like writing 100 articles – with a book, there is so much more prep work and research that needs to be done before the writing begins, during the writing process and for revisions. I didn’t want the book to feel like a text book or a news article. I wanted it to be a story with characters and scenes and stories, and even though the book covers a huge span of time, I wanted it to flow and feel connected. So, planning that and filling it in took more time and made the process more challenging than simply writing an article.

ANNIE: How many people did you interview? Anybody turn you down? Did anyone agree to speak to you that surprised you?

CAITLIN: All in all, I conducted around 100 interviews specifically for the book, and I was able to tap into unused portions of interviews I did for articles during the time I was writing the book, or interviews I had done before I wrote the book. So, there was a lot of source material – my transcript of the interviews I used to write the book was longer than the book manuscript itself. Some people wouldn’t speak on the record but offered insight on background that was really helpful to building out the story. Some people did turn me down, but I was lucky that most people agreed to speak with me and were very gracious in taking the time to share their memories and insights. I was really grateful that a lot of people were willing to speak to me for the book that aren’t always necessarily in the media. In addition to speaking to many players across all eras of the team, I was able to talk to all the previous heads of U.S. Soccer, head coaches, team lawyers and others. Some interviews were harder to get than others but that’s always the case.

ANNIE: Without giving the big stuff away are there any interesting anecdotes you could tease?

CAITLIN: The team obviously got a lot of attention when players filed a wage discrimination complaint in 2016 and started fighting for equal pay. I go into a lot of details of how that came together, which I found quite interesting, but what I think a lot of fans may not realize is that the team had been sticking up for itself in similar ways long before that. In 1999, for instance, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy sat in a room with their bosses and threatened to never play soccer again, and they meant it – they weren’t going to back down because they believed they were fighting for what was fair. It was pretty incredible determination. Similar stories cropped up repeatedly over the team’s existence and there are a lot of anecdotes that really made me realize how much these women were willing to put on the line to stand up for themselves.

The behind-the-scenes of the launch of the NWSL was also interesting. It got much closer than I realized to never happening, for several reasons. But I can’t give too much away until the book comes out on April 2.

ANNIE: Since you’re now an expert on the USWNT, where would you put their chances of winning the World Cup? What teams are you going to be interested in seeing?

CAITLIN: I’ll be honest: I didn’t think the USWNT’s chances were very good in 2015, and then they went on to win the World Cup and proved me wrong. To be fair, they looked pretty poor through the first few rounds of the 2015 tournament – they really didn’t start to look dominant until the quarterfinal game against China, and then from that point on they were thrilling to watch. That is even discussed in my book, how the players knew they were struggling early on. But that change of fortune in 2015 is indicative of how hard it is to predict World Cups – there’s a lot of luck is involved, and a lot of twists and turns. I do think this USWNT is more talented than the one that won in 2015 and they can go all the way, but I’d argue the rest of the world is better too.

I really think this World Cup will be ripe for some first-timers in the final. I was pretty high on Australia’s chances until they fired their coach, Alen Stajcic, recently. The players don’t seem to know why he was fired and it sounds like a bit of a mess. France should be the favorites – they have the talent to do it and they are the hosts. But my worry with France is that they’ve always been very talented but have always crumbled under the pressure in big tournaments. Will hosting make the World Cup more comfortable for them, or will it just add more pressure? I also think England has been on an upward trajectory and in 2015 I felt they were a cycle away from being title contenders. None of those teams – Australia, France or England – have ever made it to a major tournament final, so I’m interested to see how they do. But, hey, maybe it’ll just be one of the powerhouses again and either the U.S. or Germany will win. The reason World Cups are fun is that you just never know.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson